To Dr. Shannon and members of the USD 383 School Board:
I am here to express my strong support for the resolution being put forward by well over 100 science faculty and staff at Kansas State University. I speak as a geologist., educator, parent and committed Christian. I have also been closely involved in the Kansas science standards issue since 1999.
The Kansas science standards document recently passed by a majority of the Kansas Board of Education was not the document recommended by the science standards revision committee appointed to that task. Furthermore, the standards document has been rejected by virtually every scientific and educational organization in the state. Why is that?
Firstly, the fundamental assumption that drove the writing of the document, and that is expressed in its text, is that evolutionary science, and the very methodology of science itself, is based on an atheistic worldview. Thus the authors of the document believe that the conclusions of modem science must be balanced by a theistic alternative. But such a portrayal of science is completely and utterly false, and has the very damaging effect of putting science and faith in conflict. How can we justify teaching our children that the discoveries of science must be viewed as threat to faith? Students should be encouraged to embrace the excitement of discovery, not fear it. Science is a very limited way of knowing and is restricted to addressing the operation of natural processes. I believe that the processes described by science are upheld and directed continually by the creative action of God. But that conclusion is beyond the power of science. Science has no power to prove, or disprove, the existence or action of God.
Secondly, the recently passed standards present a completely false view of the nature of historical science (such as evolutionary biology, paleontology, geology, cosmology, anthropology) as essentially speculative and not subject to empirical test. This is often expressed in statements like “It is only a theory.” As a geologist whose research is in Earth history, historical theories are continually tested against predictions of future observations. Theories that are not successfully predictive are rejected or modified. To teach students that our reconstructions can be dismissed as untestable speculation is to teach them a false view of science.
Lastly, the document contains numerous errors and misrepresentations of current science. The critiques of evolution that were inserted into the standards are simply invalid. There are many exciting questions that remain for science and many interesting debates, but these are not the issues that the standards address. Rather, they include repeatedly refuted arguments from the creationist and Intelligent Design literature. If teachers used the standards as a basis for curriculum. they would end up teaching not balanced science, but bad science.
However, local school boards need not be adversely impacted by the standards just approved. The state standards are not mandated - local districts remain fully in control of their curriculum and teaching. Furthermore, the standards currently being used are excellent ones and provide a strong foundation for K-12 science education. Also, the appointed state science standards revision committee whose work has been rejected by the state! BOE continues to meet and work. That Committee includes some of the best science teachers and science educators in the state and nation, and they have pledged to complete their work on the standards. That document will be an excellent basis for guiding science curriculum and teaching. It will ensure that our students have the best science education, accurately knowing both the nature and content of modem science. It will also ensure that our students perform well on assessment tests, and are well-prepared to continue their education at the best institutions in the nation.
In conclusion, I urge the board to approve the resolution and safeguard the quality science education that residents and parents of the district have come to expect and value.
Most sincerely, Keith B. Miller